There was a time not too long ago when Chelsea signing a player from Leicester City wouldn’t have raised many an eyebrow. In fact, the only qualms would have been the fact the Blues stooped so low to acquire a transfer target.
But the capture of N’Golo Kante from the Foxes has many people talking for a different reason as the Frenchman has swapped Champions League football for a season in limbo with the London club.
Don’t be fooled, however, that Kante has made the 130-mile journey down south just for the money. Oh no. This is a move based on footballing prowess more than anything else.
Chelsea have shown their strength as a club in tempting one of the best players in the Premier League last season to west London without the lure of European football.
It’s also a psychological win over rivals Arsenal, who despite finishing eight places above the Blues were unable to bring a Leicester star to the club in Jamie Vardy.
Before the start of last season, and if we’re all being honest with ourselves, no one had really heard of the 25-year-old midfielder when he signed for Claudio Ranieri’s side from Ligue 1 side Caen.
His acquisition wasn’t deemed a coup, and for £5.6m, why would it be? But what Leicester got was a dynamic holding midfielder who took the Premier League by storm.
His stats speak for themselves. Last season, Kante made 156 interceptions, won 175 tackles, created 30 chances and completed 82% of all his passes.
Compared to Chelsea’s other defensive midfielders, Nemanja Matic and John Obi Mikel, his stats are better than the duo combined.
The Blues suffered in a number of places across the pitch last term, most notably in defence, conceding 53 goals as they stumbled to a 10th place finish.
Whilst Antonio Conte’s side ought to still strengthen their backline, what Kante can bring to the middle of the park is surely likely to bring stability.
The new boss spoke in depth about formation in his first press conference on Thursday, and suggested he’ll build a team which best suits the players at his disposal. This will now include the Frenchman.
With Kante, Chelsea now have a player with immense calmness on the ball and defensive nous, which will no doubt bring a sereneness to the midfield, allowing players like Cesc Fabregas to have more time on the ball as opposition players tiresomely try to get the ball away from Kante.
The defence will benefit too with a world-class holding midfielder perched right in front of them. It’s unsurprising many have drawn comparisons between Kante and Blues’ legend Claude Makelele.
That prospect alone will no doubt have supporters appetite’s whetted. Makelele was the lynch-pin in one of the most successful eras of the club’s history.
Kante can be the next.